Did you know that in 2019, 7.3 million Americans identified as digital nomads? That’s huge!
If you wonder whether the digital nomad lifestyle is right for you, this post is for you.
In this “How to become a digital nomad” guide, we will look at why you may want to become a digital nomad and how you can become one.
I’ll also talk about the pros and cons of the digital nomad lifestyle so you can make an informed decision to make this significant change in your life.
Before we get into the meat of this post, let’s first see who a digital nomad is.
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What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely using technology to perform their work. Most digital nomads embrace the nomadic lifestyle by traveling to different places and setting up temporary work spots depending on internet and Wi-Fi availability.
With the increase in internet usage, online tools (such a Software-as-a-service), and devices such as laptops and smartphones, more and more people are moving towards a digital nomad life.
Why Become a Digital Nomad?
Here are the main reasons why people choose to become digital nomads:
Live and work from anywhere in the world as long as you can take your work online and have access to a reliable internet connection.
Make your own work hours.
A digital nomad life gives you the flexibility to make your own work hours. You can decide to work any day of the week and any time of the day as long as you can be productive and complete your work efficiently.
Travel any time you want.
Becoming a digital nomad gives you the freedom to travel the world if you want to!
How to Become a Digital Nomad
If you’ve decided to become a digital nomad, here are some practical steps you need to follow to ensure that you are successful:
1. Pick your destination
Before you begin your life as a digital nomad, it is essential to choose your digital nomad destination. The best places to do remote work already have other digital nomads or a digital nomad hub.
The advantage you have as a remote worker or a business person with an online business is that you don’t have an office building or a brick-and-mortar business to report to every day.
Teach yourself the necessary skills through free resources online and then pick a city to travel to.
Picking a city with a pre-existing digital nomad community has its benefits. Most digital nomads like to choose a place with a low cost of living and a reliable internet connection.
Also, most digital nomads have either a main online business or a side business. Living in a digital nomadic community, therefore, gives you networking opportunities.
Who knows? You may find your new business partner or next freelance gig while working in a co-working space in Tbilisi!
2. Research the possibilities
Okay, so you want to become a digital nomad. But what do you do?
How do you earn enough money to be able to quit your job and live your dream life on the roads?
You could join the band of remote workers who have a full-time job that allows them to work remotely. This could be a job in the same profession you’ve been working in already or a new field altogether.
Search for location-independent jobs or remote jobs through online job portals, and you’ll be sure to find some interesting jobs to apply to.
The second way is to research ways you could make an income freelancing. If you already possess some digital nomad skills such as web development, online marketing, or content creation, you could offer your services as a freelancer.
Keep improving your skills so that you can gradually start charging more per hour and make enough to live a digital nomad life. You can learn from free internet resources or online courses.
The third way to go about it is to start one or more online businesses. Most digital nomads have a few side gigs that they work on along with full-time work. Eventually, they may be able to grow one of their online businesses into a big enough income source to quit their job.
Being a part of digital nomad communities helps you to learn new skills, see what other successful digital nomads are doing, and network or collaborate with them.
3. Equip yourself with technology
Apart from the obvious laptop and smartphone that you need for most digital nomad jobs, consider what other tech requirements you have before you start your digital nomad journey.
One important requirement is a local SIM card. It can be expensive to use the SIM card from your home country if you are planning on staying for a long time in another country. It is advisable to get a local SIM card with a cheap internet plan so that you can save some cash and use your phone for work even when you travel.
Another technology requirement is a Virtual Private Network or VPN. A VPN allows you to access websites that are only available in your home country. This way you can work on anything without the worry of your work sites being blocked in a foreign country.
Things to keep in mind when you are starting as a digital nomad
1. Important Accounts and Government Documents
Before you embark on your new journey as a digital nomad, it is important to make sure you have the necessary bank accounts to ensure you have access to your income and other sources of funds.
Find out how you will be able to continue receiving payments from your clients or employer if you plan on staying abroad for a long period. You could choose to open an account with PayPal or TransferWise to receive money directly into your bank account no matter where you are when you are working online.
Keep important government documents such as your ID and passport with you at all times in case you may need them.
2. Budgeting and Travel Costs
Plan out your budget and travel expenses before you travel to popular digital nomad destinations. Make sure you have enough money to cover your costs and live comfortably in the place you plan to go.
There are two types of expenses you need to calculate – fixed and variable.
Fixed expenses are:
- Your tourist visa or working holiday visa (it depends on the country you are traveling to – unless you plan to go to one of the visa-free countries)
- Flight tickets
- Housing and lodging
- Medical expenses and insurance
- Internet and mobile bills
Variable expenses could include:
- Restaurant bills
- Other shopping expenses
When looking for accommodation, make sure you stay in a place with a stable internet connection so that you can do your digital nomad work without any interruptions.
Look for accommodation near co-working spaces if you plan to use one.
Part of becoming a digital nomad is the excitement of living in a new place and making new friends. If you are single, don’t shy away from living in shared accommodation. It will help you save money while allowing you to meet new people and make connections.
There are many sites online that advertise accommodation for travelers. You can also join Facebook groups to find the best places to stay.
4. Flights and Transportation
You can try to save money on your flight tickets by booking your tickets early, using flight ticket price comparison sites, or by using miles programs.
Once you have reached your destination, try walking or using public transport to save money. You will be surprised to see how much money gets wasted on taxis and rental cars.
If you plan to stay for a long time, try getting weekly or monthly public transport passes to save more money.
5. Banking Solutions
Choosing the right banking solutions is important when you plan to travel so much. Normally, banks charge an ATM fee if you withdraw money from another bank’s ATM. You will need a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees or provides you with an ATM fee reimbursement.
You will also need a banking solution that does not charge you hefty foreign transaction fees.
Here are some good options:
6. Taxes & Bookkeeping
Filing taxes as a digital nomad can be tricky, especially if you are traveling a lot. You could choose to do this yourself or you could hire someone to do it for you.
One of the most important things you should know is that if you are self-employed (own your own business, are a freelancer, or are a contract employee without benefits from your employer), any expense incurred to help you earn an income are tax-deductible.
This includes your laptop, internet and cell phone bills, office supplies, and professional fees or licenses you have earned.
If you own a website or a blog, your website hosting, marketing, and advertising expenses can also be deductible.
Save your tax-deductible receipts. Create a spreadsheet to track your income and expenses.
Keeping all this information organized will help you file your taxes easily no matter where you are. If you plan to hire an accountant, hire one in your home country.
The Pros and Cons of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
There are many advantages of leading a digital nomad lifestyle:
- Location independence – your work or business does not require your physical presence so you can work from anywhere in the world.
- Experience true freedom in your career – work according to your own schedule. Better yet, be your own boss with a location-independent business.
- Save money – live in cities with a low cost of living and save more money.
- Be more productive – work at the time of day and the place you are most productive.
- Save time – ditch the daily work commute and save hours every week.
- Flexible working days – decide which days you want to work and which days you want to take a break from work.
- Travel – visit the places you always wanted to but couldn’t because of work.
- Meet new people – have the chance to make new friends and network with people outside your home country.
- You may take time to adjust to your new routine and the new place.
- You may lose the benefit of paid holidays.
- You may find it hard to manage your time and avoid burnout.
- You may end up spending your savings on travel expenses if you don’t budget properly.
1. How do digital nomads make money?
A digital nomad makes money online either by working remotely for a company or setting up a source of passive income for themselves. There is no limit to how much money a digital nomad can make.
There can be hundreds of different ways by which a digital nomad makes money, but if you truly want to succeed at being a digital nomad, here are the main ways:
Get a location-independent job.
Apply for jobs that allow you to work from anywhere in the world. Usually, the job poster mentions this in the job description.
Make money freelancing.
Use all the skills, talents, or experience you have to make an income as a freelancer. There are many content writers, website developers, website designers, virtual assistants, etc., who offer their skills on a freelance basis.
Start your own online business.
If you truly want to experience the digital nomadic lifestyle where you are in control of every aspect of your work, you could consider starting an online business. Look for a particular product or service you can offer a niche audience and consider building an online business around it.
A word of caution though – starting your own business requires a lot of patience, hard work, and investment in the beginning, but the rewards are worth it.
2. Do I need travel insurance as a digital nomad?
It is best that you get travel and health insurance as a digital nomad. Digital nomads usually avail of special insurance policies that cover their unique needs.
It is always important to have medical coverage when abroad, particularly during these uncertain times of the pandemic.
There are many travel insurance providers that provide insurance packages for digital nomads and cover most countries. Some examples are SafetyWing, World Nomads, and Atlas Travel Insurance.
3. Should I start a blog as a digital nomad?
Starting a blog is a great way to make an income online, but it is not the only way. It can take months (and sometimes even years!) to start making a steady income from your own blog, so you will have to consider that before you make the decision.
Blogging involves more work than you may realize. From planning your blog content to writing each blog post, there’s a lot of consistent work that you need to put in. Search engine optimization is another thing you need to focus on from the start if you plan to make more money with a blog as a digital nomad.
4. What should I bring when I travel as a digital nomad?
Here are some of the essentials you need to carry as a digital nomad:
- A backpack or suitcase for your clothing and belongings
- A small backpack for day trips
- A toiletry bag to keep your toiletries organized
- Mesh laundry bags
- Basic clothing and footwear (according to the weather conditions of the country you plan to travel to)
- Your laptop and smartphone
- Travel adapter and chargers
- External power bank
I hope you enjoyed this article on how to become a digital nomad. If you want to join other digital nomads around the world, I hope you found this useful.
Do you want to have a digital nomad lifestyle? Or have you just begun your journey as a digital nomad?
If you are a digital nomad, what words of advice would you give to those who want to be one?
Leave your comments below and let us know! 🙂